SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership
Wed 11 February, 2015. Kick Off: - 19:45
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow
For Jags boss, Alan Archibald, it’s difficult to tell whether facing the Scottish Premiership champions, just days after a disappointing exit from the William Hill Scottish Cup, is a good thing or a bad thing.
“I don’t think there’s ever a good time to play the champions, especially given the form they’re in at the moment – that’s one way to look at it anyway. On the other side of things, I don’t think anybody – outside of this building – really expects us to do anything. That’s the usual when you play Celtic of course, everyone thinks they’re just going to run over the top of teams. We’ll be doing everything we can to show that just isn’t the case.
“In hindsight we were maybe better playing them on New Year’s Day when we were on a better run of form and they were maybe struggling a bit. We had a lot of players out for that game too though so you never know. The important thing is that we are playing them tonight and we’ll be going all out to get a result.”
Having at times been crippled by injury since Christmas, Archibald finally has almost a full squad to choose from.
“Yes, we have almost a full squad to choose from now, only Sean Welsh (ankle) and Jordan McMillan (suspension) remain out of contention. We have the bodies now and know that we can go out there and hurt them, but we also know how hard we will need to work to do that. Every player has to work their hardest and play their best, but if we can do that we could do something against them.
“Consistency is definitely still an issue for us. We’ve gone from being outstanding one week, to poor the next, to outstanding again. Sometimes I’d take a game or two in between those two extremes! We need everyone on their game tomorrow, all 11 starters and the subs need to do everything they can to help us over the line.”
Archie doesn’t have too many players with a great deal of experience playing in Scotland against Celtic but that isn’t an issue for the Jags boss.
“It’s a double edged sword. Sometimes it’s good to have boys who have that experience, but then if you have a player who has played Celtic 20 times and lost 20 times that probably isn’t great going into the game either. That’s why it’s sometimes good to put youngsters in for these games because they have no fear. The important thing is to have players in the team who have experience playing in big games. We have that right across our team and we will need to use every ounce of it in the match tonight.”
Tickets for the Thistle end are still on sale and are available online (ptfctickets.co.uk), on the phone (0141 579 1971) or in person by visiting the Partick Thistle offices. Tickets are priced:
Anybody who had a ticket for the game on New Year’s Day should retain it as it will remain valid for Wednesday night’s match.
The game is an all ticket match and there will be no tickets on sale immediately before kick off and no cash turnstiles in operation. Tickets must be bought in advance and there will be none sold after 5pm on Wednesday night.
Partick Thistle can only sell tickets to home support. All away ticket sales are being handled by Celtic.
With the Sky Sports cameras broadcasting the game live across the world, Thistle hoped to lay to rest their weekend cup exit against Inverness with a Glasgow derby victory. Manager, Alan Archibald, rang the changes with Scott Fox, Callum Booth, Conrad Balatoni, Lyle Taylor and Declan McDaid all making the starting eleven.
Thistle kicked the game off and immediately gave away possession which allowed Guidetti an early sight of goal. Luckily for the Jags his shot was blocked and deflected for a corner.
Thistle failed to clear the resulting corner and, after just 38 seconds, Gary Mackay-Steven fired low past Fox to put the champions 1-0 ahead. A nightmare start for the Jags. With the home side standing off the visitors and allowing them to play Fox produced two great saves within the first ten minutes as Thistle toiled. Celtic continued to pile the pressure on and the home defence struggled to clear a couple of corners, one of which in particular was left by everyone in the six yard box. Stevenson tried his luck from 25 yards but his effort failed to trouble Craig Gordon in goal. The other new signing for the visitors, Stuart Armstrong, was then not too far wide with a half volley from 20 yards.
The visitors increased their lead on the half hour mark. Thistle looked for offside when a ball found Guidetti wide just inside the box, his lay off was met by Armstrong who fired low past Fox to make it 2-0. McDaid then put in a tremendous covering tackle on Johansen to prevent the chance for a third a couple of minutes later.
Johansen again caused problems for the home defence and created a shooting chance for himself but fired just wide from 25 yards. Near half time Thistle did force a couple of chances with Elliott seeing a shot blocked and then Taylor heading over from an excellent O’Donnell cross. In truth the home side looked delighted to hear the half time whistle.
Thistle came out for the second half with renewed fire and a good move, started by Fox, and involving both Bannigan and Stevenson, saw the latter’s pass find McDaid who cut onto his left foot forcing Gordon to make a smart save. Elliott then gave the ball away in midfield allowing Johansen another sight of goal but he fired his shot wide of the target.
In the 62nd minute Thistle had vociferous appeals for a penalty waved away by referee, Crawford Allan. Having out muscled Scott Brown, Elliott’s cross found Stevenson whose lay off allowed Bannigan to get a shot away. It appeared for all the world that Izaguirre stopped the ball with his arm but nothing was given.
Although still 2-0 down, the Jags weren’t quite done yet. Stevenson fired a great cross to the near post and Taylor’s effort under pressure flashed just wide. Just as Thistle were forcing the game they were hit by a sucker punch. Initially Fox was fouled but the ref played advantage as the ball was cleared. Thistle lost the ball from the clearance but regained possession until Balatoni’s clearance to the middle of the park was headed forward by Bitton allowing Johansen a clear sight of goal – he made no mistake, firing past Fox to make it 3-0.
In the 69th minute Osman gave the ball away and the impressive Johansen chipped a pass to Guidetti who was unable to pile on the misery as he volleyed over from eight yards out.
McDaid made a great run with ten minutes to go and picked out Higginbotham with a cross field pass. Higginbotham cut inside but his shot took a deflection and Gordon gathered comfortably. Gary Fraser then saw his powerful, low 30 yard effort well saved by Gordon as Thistle looked for a goal to cheer up the Firhill faithful.
In injury time Stevenson smashed a powerful 25 yard shot which Gordon did well to save and the rebound just evaded McDaid.
Full time and it finished 3-0 to the visitors. Yet again, a poor start against quality opposition saw Thistle always chasing the game.
Thistle: Fox, O’Donnell, Frans, Balatoni, Booth, Bannigan (80), Osman, McDaid, Stevenson, Elliott (70), Taylor (72)
Subs: Gallacher, Craigen, Doolan (Taylor), Lawless, Higginbotham (Elliott), Richards-Everton, Fraser (Bannigan)
Having conceded a goal after just 38 seconds it was always going to be an uphill task for Thistle boss, Alan Archibald, and his side against Celtic. Having said that, there were still positives to take, as he told ptfc.co.uk after the game.
“Conceding a goal that early obviously makes things very difficult from the start. What makes it more frustrating for us is that it comes from our kick off. I think from there the lads felt a bit sorry for themselves for the next 25 minutes to be honest.
“We got a reaction out of the boys as the half wore on and we had our best spell at the start of the second, by then though, most of the damage was already done. You can’t gift Celtic goals like we did tonight, they’re a hard enough team to start off with – we don’t need to be giving them easy goals.”
Thistle did look more confident in the second half and Archibald believes that was down to gaining a bit of belief.
“At the break we just told them to go believe in themselves and make it a game in the second half. We needed to be competitive all over the pitch tonight, I think you saw a bit of that in the second half but the damage was done by then.”
To add to the disappointment Archie felt a little hard done by on a couple of decisions.
“I think it was probably hand ball in the second half but we’ve had a few of those this season that haven’t been given. Other than that we did build up a bit of momentum and maybe a goal or a penalty at the time would have helped us out.
“Lyle had a couple of good chances, the header in the first half and the high one in the second. We got a couple of great balls whipped in and we’ve got to take advantage of those chances, especially against Celtic.”
The Thistle team had a fresh look to it, with five changes from the side that went out of the Scottish Cup on Saturday.
“Yea, we felt we had to freshen it up a bit. There’s a lot of football being played this week and we felt fresh legs would help on that front. I think the boys that came in did really well and have certainly staked a claim for Saturday.”